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Some Symptoms of Functional Thyroid Disease

Thyroid disease is an everyday reality for over 27 million people in the United States. Within this enormous group, it is estimated that more than half remain undiagnosed and untreated. Iodine deficiency causes significant thyroid problems for many more millions of individuals worldwide. It is for these reasons, in my opinion, that Thyroid Awareness Month is so critical.

Thyroid Awareness Month began in 1995 as a joint effort by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American Thyroid Association. This year, these two organizations are making a particularly strong effort to increase awareness of the symptoms most frequently associated with thyroid disorders. It is in this spirit that I hope to engage our readers in reviewing some common manifestations of thyroid malfunction.

The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located at the front base of your neck. The workings of the thyroid are often likened to the engine of a car: normally, the gland releases the just the right amount of thyroid hormone, which is required for the cells of your body to function. For fuel, your thyroid-engine uses iodine, which must be obtained from food or from supplements. Like the accelerator and the brake on an automobile, the thyroid takes direction from the pituitary and from the hypothalamus. These areas of the brain signal the thyroid gland to produce more or less hormone, depending on your body’s energy state.

Sometimes, the thyroid may not be able to meet the body’s demand for thyroid hormone. This condition is known as hypothyroidism; it represents an entire group of possible disorders. Some common symptoms of hypothyroidism are listed below:

§ Constant and Persistent Fatigue
§ Forgetfulness
§ Dryness of nails, hair, and skin
§ Constipation
§ Muscle Soreness
§ Fluid Retention or Weight Gain
§ Heavy or Irregular Menses
§ Cold Intolerance
§ Hair Loss

At other times, the thyroid gland overproduces thyroid hormone, even when the body clearly has enough. This condition is known as hyperthyroidism, and it also represents several potential disorders. Some common symptoms of hyperthyroidism are as follows:

§ Persistently Fast Heart Rate
§ Anxiety
§ Hand Tremor
§ Unintentional Weight Loss
§ Heat Intolerance
§ Hair Loss
§ Fatigue
§ Frequent, Loose Bowel Movements
§ Increased Sweating
§ Heavy or Irregular Menses

Notice that although these conditions affect thyroid hormone release in opposite ways, they do share some symptoms in common. Importantly, persistent or unusual fatigue is the most frequent complaint for both conditions. Additionally, abnormal swelling of the thyroid gland, known as a goiter may be seen in either condition.

Thyroid disorders can strike anyone, at any stage of life. However, they occur more frequently in women, and they tend to run in families. Please be sure to speak with a health care professional if you believe that you may be at risk for thyroid disease, and you are also experiencing symptoms. If you are already being treated for a thyroid disorder, please make sure that you understand and follow the instructions given by your health care provider.

After all, if your engine isn’t working right, how can you?
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